By Joellen Perry
Wednesday, August 2
Police are hoping to keep the peace for the rest of the week after clashing with protesters yesterday in downtown Philadelphia during the GOP convention. After three days of relatively quiet demonstrations, including marches that drew thousands on both Sunday and Monday,
thousands of protesters yesterday linked arms to form human chains and sat in the middle of major downtown arteries to block traffic. Police, eager to prevent a replay of the violence at Seattle's World Trade Organization meeting, arrested some 230 demonstrators.
Earlier in the day, opponents of the death penalty, including author Jonathan Kozol and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, held a press conference, during which they dubbed the GOP convention an "Executioner's Ball" and George W. Bush "Governor Death" for allowing over 130 executions during his tenure as Texas governor. "Under a Bush-Cheney administration, support for the death penalty will be a litmus test for Supreme Court justices," said Jackson. He reiterated his support for Al Gorewho also supports the death penaltyinsisting that a Gore administration would be more flexible on the issue.
One brigade of protesters dressed as clowns shut down an intersection at 18th and Arch streets. Another group formed a linked-arm blockade at Spruce and Broad streets. A gaggle of protesters on bicycles wearing painted cardboard goat maskssymbolizing, said one demonstrator, the gullibility of the American people ("goats will eat anything you feed them") were part of the pack. Small groups of demonstratorsprotesting the death penalty, police brutality, and the pending execution of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu Jamalbegan popping up around the city about 3:45 pm, converging for a scheduled 4:30 rally at Thomas Paine Plaza across the street from City Hall.
Six officers, including Police Commissioner John Timoney, were slightly injured and one police officer was knocked unconscious with a bike tire during clashes, according to police officials. A representative of R2K, a coalition of groups organized to protest at the GOP convention, said a protester was injured when police threw him against a patrol car. "We wanted to reach the American people, make a strong protest about the death penalty, and highlight the case of Mumiaand we think our message got out," says John Riley, an R2K official. Police spokesman David Yarnell said the department was "very pleased with the performance of the officers."
Some residents watched the day's events from their door stoops and offices. One observer, a 43-year-old security guard, says he disagrees with the protesters' beefs but "enjoy[s] the fact that they're allowed to demonstrate. Where else in the world could you be allowed to do this?"